The 10×10 Challenge

A few weeks ago Ethan and myself travelled down to Bernard’s village to make a video for Dignity. Ethan did the filming, I did some scripting and then Bernard and myself took an inordinate amount of time getting it right!

We need to fund a huge expansion in the village work of Digntiy in Zambia. To do this, we need your help!

Please, please watch the video below and share it. We need 100 people to do the 10×10 challenge. Maybe you and your friends could be some of the 100?

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Dignity in Pictures

Next week there’s a photography exhibition in Mkushi, Zambia hosted by Dignity. As part of this I’m also exhibiting some photographs that I have taken over the years. There not necessarily my best photographs but they are ones that I think convey something of my work. 

Those that are down and out, desperate, just poor or have fallen on hard times. They are the ones in this world that are valuable and precious. It may raise money to show people suffering, but there is no Dignity in that. These are normal everyday people living normal but amazing everyday lives.  These are the people that God uses to bring love, meaning and comfort to many communities and people across the world. They are His hands and feet, and so very important.

My hope is that you will learn to see “the poor in Africa”, “asylum seekers”, “refugees” with the God given Dignity that they deserve. Only then will we treat people correctly and be open to the fact they they are more capable, more gifted and more precious than this world deserves. 

With Jesus they can do anything. My aim is to help people like this in every community realise who they were created to be and what they were created to do. The potential is amazing!

“But God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27)

A lone rural zambian pastor studying his bible with one of the resources we use to help people to know God and their responsibility to each other.

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Some of the people I have connected with over the years who work with me and Dignity in many communities in Zambia and beyond. Competition, fun and laughter are all essential ingredients in helping these guys become everything they should.

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This is Augustine, one of our Impact Team members. He exudes dignity.

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Having fun around the fire. Sharing stories of how God is using each other in many communities.

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These are two village volunteers cooking for a training session being held in their village. They don’t get paid for this and they give their time freely. They give as part of the wider work in their community.

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This is Gervas explaining how to meet together in a Life! Group and how to work in a community. This is done most months of the year in multiple locations across Southern Africa.

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An unknown guitarist. And yes, it did sound great! I love the ingenuity!

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These are market traders in Livingstone Victoria falls curio market. These are the guys that harass you to buy their wares. What interested me was the camaraderie and friendship. Africans are fun and you can clearly see that in this picture.

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This is Hunter, someone we worked with many years ago. You won’t find a more honest, compassionate and lovely man anywhere in the world.

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These are some people worshipping at a training course we run to teach people how to meet the needs of their community. They learn how to help people to know Jesus and to practically serve those in need in the community.

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Some exuberant bush worship!

Freda Singing

This is the only non-African picture in my selection for the exhibition. It’s taken in Assam, India, I think in 2008. These are a group of Christian evangelists who worked in a very dangerous situation. Hindu extremists had beaten them, chased them and even killed some of their friends. Yet you would never guess this. You can see a joy and a quiet determination in them.

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Normal life in Angola. The flats are run down, it really did smell and yet people are just hanging about, chatting, doing the types of things that any of us would.

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This is my son Joshua being carried around a village by this lovely woman. There are some of us that believe different races are completely different, even better than one another. I don’t believe that we are that different at all.

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This is a lady called Mabel sitting opposite Jude outside our tent, which is our home in villages. I liked the way that their poses almost reflect one another like a mirror. Maybe we are not so different as we believe.

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Just a great shot of “poor” kids smiling and having fun.

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A scene that could be repeated around the world. A classroom with children learning. Do we think that those who are poor, somehow do not share experiences with us?

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I like the adult pose that this boy is taking. The reality is that many of those we would class as uneducated or poor, have faced situations that would cause many of us to disintegrate.

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A lovely view of an Angolan girl in a dark doorway.

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These Angolan women in Luena are praying that God would move outside the walls of their church and would reach the areas beyond. It’s through people like these, everyday people that God works and moves in power. God thinks small! Millions of people all playing their little part.

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Building

Today I spent the morning staining concrete so it looks like sandstone. The other day I plumbed in a solar hot water geyser, above a slightly rickety wooden platform. I’ve got to admit when I turned it on this morning, rather like a fountain, it leaked. In the last few weeks I have had to do so many things that I have never done before.

I remember last year having to fix some wiring that was smoking in a house I was renting. I simply ripped it all out and started again. A few weeks before in Wales I had asked an electrician how to wire in a fuse box…..???

The thing is, even with some of my inexperience, I am probably still better placed to do it than many of the tradesman around Mkushi. Plumbers normally remove the rubber seals meant to stop leaks and apparently in Zambian electrical work, earth and neutral are often the same thing.

The difference is confidence and education. If I’m not sure how to do something I simply get online and have a look how. I can understand the instructions and I’m handy enough to do the practical things I read. Guys here cannot get online and even if they do, they don’t have the background and framework within which to understand the information.

Lasford last year asked me who had taught me electrics, he was amazed when I answered I had just read something the day before. And yes! the house hasn’t burnt down…….yet……..

Even in our work here, even simple tasks can often become very complicated, simply because of this ‘background’ knowledge issue. You would not believe how complicated, convoluted and difficult communication can be.

Now many people will read this and just assume that villagers and builders in Zambia are stupid. They are not! Some of the best times in the last few weeks have been spending some time with the builders and working out with them how to do things. They are not stupid, many of them simply haven’t had the opportunity to learn.

Perhaps one of the saddest situations I have come across is perhaps that two of my builders I am having to let go, as they are alcoholics. They get paid and disappear in a drunken stupor for half a week. They could go far, but alas, their situation keeps them captive.

In some ways the problems these guys face are a microcosm of the situations that many people face in the villages. Imagine thousands of people, held captive by issues, not educated very well and not having confidence. You really then begin to get an idea of the challenges faced by Rural Africa.

Never will a child…..

If you want to know what our work means here in Zambia and how I relates to villages, people, hunger, donor aid and the like read the powerful words below that were spoken by Cornelius Chalwe last week at our leaders gathering.

They are very zambian and unedited, I wanted you get the immediacy of them

“We need to pray very hard…because they have brainwashed people in our villages
All people want to see is some handouts in our villages
That time has now gone. Zambia is paradise. Zambia is heaven on earth
No one can sleep hungry, no one
Unless that village is under attack
Unless in that village, people are not thinking, they are not focused
Some Churches have brainwashed people by giving them clothes, what, what, what, wherever they go
Every time they see Jon, they think he has come with a bale of clothes, a bunch of
money, it’s not that
That time has now gone
We have to work very hard
Zambia is fertile, Zambia has very good rainfall, we have rivers everywhere, streams
We can do wonders for the poor in our villages
We can grow a lot of things, vegetables, bananas
and help our vulnerable people we have in our villages
never in Zambia I saw a child sleeping hungry during our time myself, no
except during these days because we have been brainwashed
even our government depends on handouts, donor run government
that has just brought us something else
so we need to change the attitude in our villages
when they see us working together
something will speak out
As Jon was saying we need to die [to ourselves] but this will be a seed
that will remain in Zambia
unity, be focused and commitment
that will help us a lot, Praise the Lord.”

Aid doesn’t work, never has, never will, think about that next time you support a project. The only way is unity if purpose, unity of people, hard work and commitment. We achieve this through people knowing God and loving their neighbour as themselves.

Then, never will a child sleep hungry again.

Simple isn’t it?

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Location:T2,,Zambia

Two Bulls

There is a Bemba proverb here in Zambia. It goes like this,

“Who loses if two bulls are fighting?” The answer is very simple, “The Grass”. I heard this from an American guy I saw the other day and although very simple it is very very profound.

One of the things I have talked about again and again here is a very simple concept, but one that I believe is very very important. The poor, do not have the luxury of the rich to be divided. Think about it. We get by in our own individualistic ways simply because we have the finance and the freedom to do so. Those who are poor, do not I believe have that luxury. Churches do not have the resources and teaching to not come together, but they still remain separate. People struggle on their own, but they would be better working together. A simple point, but again important. To go back to our proverb, “If 2 churches/people/anything are fighting it is only the community that suffers”.

I really do believe that God can work in the hearts of villagers to do amazing things. Just the other day at our conference in Lusaka, I heard Nick talking to Cornelius where he was giving him the story of the work in Nchelenge. The bottom line is that bringing people together in the power of the gospel has not only lead to faith growing it has also led to the growth of cooperation and there are concrete examples of this in home grown initiatives that have sprung up. They are not financed from the outside, and they rely heavily on the involvement on those there. Is not this the way things can and should go?

I realised today that I haven’t updated my blog for the whole of July. I actually did once, but my iPad lost the post….. unbelievable – see it even happens to ex-software engineers. So this is actually my second post of July! However it has been a very busy month. A couple of weeks ago I had a small team here from the UK. They spent some days with us in Mkushi to understand the work and then went from here to Lusaka, to hold a conference.

This conference was the first we had ever run for people from may disparate areas of Zambia. 24 delegates came together to here about the Life! Initiative and the work that we have been doing in the bush. The hope is that some of these villagers/pastors may be in spired to do the same in their own area. They came from Namibia, Zimbabwe, North Eastern Zambia and the North West, quite humbling really considering there was frantic relationship building going on to get people there in the first place.

Apparently, after the first talk (which I did) one of the delegates commented he had just been hit with a sledgehammer…….. all we had talked about was the divided nature of the church and community and what was required to fix it. Division, 2 bulls and all that…. it really cannot be the future. Hey! maybe we took it easier after that but over the 4 days we worked together to envisage a way in which the church can grow and be revitalised in the bush, so that life can come to all. All in all it was a very good time and I hope before the end of the year we will see some fruits come from this. Time intensive and very relational, but’s that the way you need to work here.

I must tell you about 3 guys from Namibia I met. Well in fact they are Zambians, one 27 yrs old, the two others are 25. They work in Katima Mulilo which is in the Caprivi Strip in Northern Namibia. With no support and no help they have just gone, rented a house and are reaching out to those in the bush. Fantastic stuff! I’ve got great hopes of working together with them. The biggest thing I was impressed by, they were just willing to go and serve. That’s the Spirit we are trying to cultivate in the bush. Pray for them, their names are Sly, Keagan and Bernard.

It has been an intensive time and to be honest I am absolutely done in. With that in mind we are going to namibia for a couple of weeks to unwind (and see our new Namibian friends). The most encouraging thing to me is that I know the work is growing and has a life of its’ own without me, even today there is a conference happening 10 hrs north of here to train new villages in using the Life! Initiative. Augustine texted me and told me that the turnout was “good” – that’s really encouraging, in fact it is amazing. Please keep praying that this work of God continues.

One of my colleagues Nick, when he was out here, met a guy called Francis in a village called Lilanda. I’ve never met Francis, he is a friend of Peter Muyombe one of the people involved in the work in this area. He said to Nick, “This…(as in the work).. has helped us to know Jesus – thank you” (or words to that effect). How very humbling is that?

The future is when there are hundreds of people like Francis, people I will never meet who take the name, the cause of Jesus Christ for themselves and become light and change in their community.

Then the bulls will stop fighting and the grass won’t suffer anymore.

Seeing the Future

The Future

9 o clock in the evening is beginning to get on in Zambia. The sun sets at 6 pm and at this time of year the temperature drops, it actually feels cold and there is  vibrant chill in the air. Even a muzungu (white person) from England like me feels it.

Yet last tuesday, things were only just beginning.
Yet last tuesday, things were only just beginning. Around 25 people were still on buses all over Northern Zambia. The thought that I may have over-cocked the organisation ‘this time’ was more than going through my mind. You see, 25 villagers, those overseeing our work in Zambia were all coming to a conference organised by myself. The distances are vast. to give you an idea, a place called Kapiri Mposhi is considered ‘just down the road. It is in fact 75 miles away, about the width of North Wales, or from Manchester to Birmingham. No-one thinks twice about going that distance.
Earlier in the day some pastors had been stuck in Kitwe (some 4 hrs away) as they had underestimated their travel costs. At the time, I was getting a fuel filter in my car unclogged, so I was a little stuck. They were thinking that maybe only two of them could come to the conference, how would I get some money to them? Good ‘ole Western Union came to the rescue. A lesson learnt for the future I think.
I was on the ground at 7 pm, I ‘found’ some pastors in a bar at 10 pm in Mkushi. It was so cold they had overcome their usual hesitancy at entering such places. I must admit a little wry smile came over my face, I’ve been trying to tell them for years they have no need to fear such places. The others arrived around midnight after a 12 hour journey to Mkushi, the base from which we work here in Zambia.
The fact that 25 people had come was staggering enough. A few txts and phone calls were all it took to arrange the conference (and a few frantic phone calls whilst they were on various buses). These people are not just simply a part of what we do, they are what we do here in Zambia. If I’m honest I secretly hold a fear every time I come to Africa that it will have all fallen apart. It doesn’t however, God is doing something long lasting and real here!
These 25 people, represent maybe 100 leaders and probably a thousand people who are part of the groups we have begun in the villages in Zambia. Some groups are as small as 10, and I’ve heard reports of groups as large as 50 or 60. They are grappling with issues such as how to make an impact in their villages, how to overcome conflict, how to work as a community and how to work inter-denominationally. It was these issues that our leadership conference was to address. However, as usual, I didn’t take the usual route to get there…..
We held the conference at Ndubaluba Outdoor Education Centre in Mkushi, Zambia. The conference was a mixture of seminars, discussion and fun! For many years in the UK, we’ve used the outdoors to teach people teamwork, endurance, lateral thinking and the value of others. All of us remember at school going on such things. Our whole education system is based upon solving problems and finding solutions. It teach us to express ourselves. The education system (if there is a one) in rural Zambia is not like that. It is more directive, people give standard answers to questions and problems. That has defined the church, defined leadership and defined the way people approach ministry, life and well everything. It’s like the potential of rural Africa is held in an airtight container of missed opportunity and lack of vision.
“If you want things to change you begin with God working in people. “
If you want things to change you begin with God working in people. You then help those people to grasp hold of everything that God has for them. So, if the future is people, you sow as much in to them as you can. We talked about sacrificing our lives for the greater causes of God, we talked about provision and that God can provide for anyone. Then, we spent the afternoons solving problems. I will never forget the sight of Ranger, Joel and Vincent up Jacob’s ladder, some 10 metres above me working together to get to the top. Cornelius leapt 2 metres in the air when his team finally dropped a ball in a canister using no hands. Even the women, who are usually sidelined were fully involved. The impact of these times are brought home to me, because I have seen the difficulty of people beginning to move in this direction, I’ve seen the arguments, the dependency and the poverty.
This can really change the world. To have hope in, to trust those who have nothing, whom with a loving and powerful God can change their world. You could build a thousand mission centres and buildings and get nowhere near the impact of this.
Friday morning. Time for reflection, time for talking and a time for planning. What would the result of our time be? I’d laid some items before our friends, some ideas if you like. Perhaps for me the most important to me was that they for the first time ran their own training for the Life! Initiative. I asked them if they would consider forming a group of leaders in a neighbouring area, if they would mentor them, if they would train them. Going round the groups, they all had different ideas how, different ways to get to the same goal, all of them were excellent and valid. That excites me so much that it is hard convey here. In each of the three areas I would expect another cluster of groups to form in the coming months, and more importantly they are going to do this themselves. I certainly don’t want to intervene and rob them of the confidence, strength and exhilaration they will get from this.
So, friday lunch time, they went home. The truck arrived to pick them up and I watched them leave the centre singing and dancing on the back of a Canter truck. I do believe that the hopes and prayers of their areas go with them, certainly my hope and prayer does. On such people, we will see real transformation, real change and a future for rural Africa that is vibrant and real. Nothing and I really do mean nothing could and will tell me otherwise.